The essence of the unique “Hungarian” way of dealing with the effects of the disaster was to tell nothing to the people but share all information and measurement results with the Western governments. This is how the Kádár-leadership could gain plus points in both West and East, Washington and Moscow. Fortunately, Hungary was not hit hard by the radiation – otherwise, the government would be responsible for the death of hundreds.
Is the Paks nuclear plant a good idea?
According to Rubicon, a Hungarian History magazine, the Chernobyl-disaster happened in an era when all media in Communist-lead Hungary, owned of course by the party-state itself, talked about
the high-tech achievement of the Socialist Soviet and Hungarian industry: the Paks nuclear plant.
What happened in Chernobyl did not fit into this success story, and since Hungarian authorities received at the beginning very little information about what exactly happened and how bad the results can be, they were interested in minimising the problem. The first report on the disaster that occurred on April 26 appeared on April 28 in the Hungarian state television and stated that everything is in order, the food is safe and the radiation level is not high.
In fact, only 5 pc of the news said that what happened in Chernobyl was very dangerous,
83 pc of them highlighted that it is not harmful.
Though the first radiation wave reached the country on April 29, authorities and media reported that there is nothing to fear from and everybody should take part in the May 1 celebrations.
The message changed only days later when newspapers started to write about protective measures. They suggested parents give their children only milk analysed and approved by the Hungarian authorities or to wash vegetables properly before using them. However, by and large, nor reporters nor politicians took seriously what happened in Chernobyl. Though the goal was not to cause panic among the citizens, the media was not able to even calm the people who received information about what really happened through rumours and gossip anyway.
To make matters worse, the Hungarian government did not publish its measurement results, but it shared each of them with the Western powers where, therefore, they appeared to be a reliable partner. As a result, the number of people listening to Radio Free Europe increased while the whole issue considerably
undermined public trust in the government.
True, the Hungarian political leadership received little information from Moscow about the real damages. However, through unofficial channels, they knew that the problem is much worse than the Soviet authorities try to picture it. Furthermore, this does not explain the fact why the first Hungarian measurement results were published only on May 14, more than two weeks after the disaster.
More people listened to the Free Radio Europe
The economic consequences of the catastrophe were also severe in Hungary since the Communist country was struggling with a debt trap, so it needed every dollar for the goods it exported to the West. Though thanks to the good measurement results the ban of the Council of the European Communities lasted for only two weeks, it caused
almost 12 million USD minus for the weak Hungarian economy.
Furthermore, tourists cancelled 60 thousand guest nights.
If you want to read about the direct effects of the Chernobyl-disaster in Hungary where the radioactive cloud entered in two waves on April 29, and May 7, click HERE. We wrote HERE that Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant is not at risk of a Chernobyl-like disaster because the designs of the two plants’ nuclear blocks were utterly different.